If you are from California, Europe, Argentina, Chile, or Uruguay, Syrah is a deep dark red wine with generally low to moderate acidity, often with smooth tannins. If you are from Australia, New Zealand, Canada or South Africa, the same grape and wine are called Shiraz. It shows wonderful flavors of spice and fruit, although the spices and fruit notes vary considerably.

Syrah is the main grape of the Northern Rhône, associated with its birthplace. Well-regarded wines such as Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie are all made from Syrah. In the Southern Rhône it is used for blending in such wines as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Côtes du Rhône, where Grenache usually is the primary grape of the blend. At its best, Syrah will age for decades; but less-extracted styles may be enjoyed young for their lively red and blueberry characters and smooth tannin structure. Syrah has been widely used as a blending grape in the red wines of many countries due to its fleshy fruit mid-palate, balancing the weaknesses of other varieties and resulting in a “complete” wine.

From the 1970s through today, Syrah has enjoyed increased popularity, and plantings of the variety have expanded significantly in both old and new locations.In the early 2000s, it broke into the top 10 of varieties planted worldwide for the first time.

Syrahs are often rich and full-bodied. They display a wide range of flavor notes, depending on the climate and soils of origin, as well as practices chosen in the vineyard. Aromas can range from violets to dark berries, bitter chocolate, licorice, mocha and black pepper. Similar to its complex colleague, Pinot Noir, there is not one note or distinctive feature that one might describe as  “typical”; but blackberry and pepper are often noticed. With age, these “primary” notes are balance and then enhanced with earthy or savory notes such as leather and truffle.

Shiraz goes very well with beef and other substantial foods. It also goes well with Indian, Mexican, and similarly spicy foods. I prefer this and most red wines slightly below room temperature or around 62F. Those who say red wines should be served at “room temperature” need to remember that homes in Europe were rarely a warm 70F several hundred years ago.